Archive for July, 2012

park city, salt lake city

Friday, July 27th, 2012

how much fun can you have in a state where draft beer is limited to 4% abv?  quite a lot, actually.

  • I was a little skeptical flying into salt lake city for VG’s bachelor party – with its oppressive alcohol laws, utah seemed the last place to find good beer.  taps were limited, retail stores were scarce and state-run, and the rules surrounding the serving and consumption of beer and spirits seemed confusing and bizarre.
  • however, once I touched down and started making the rounds, everything started to come together.  a trip to squatter’s pub yielded a somewhat anemic draft flight, but their bottled beers were not subject to strength limitations and left a great impression (specifically, their hop rising DIPA and outer darkness imperial stout).
  • my situation only improved after leaving SLC for park city.  our first stop in town was the local state liquor store, which had an outstanding variety of local beers from epic, squatter’s, and uinta.  over the course of the next few days we visited local watering holes like the middle-of-the-road wasatch brew pub and the world-class high west distillery.
  • however, the most refreshing beers of the trip were consumed while enjoying the great outdoors.  highlights included passing around a cold bottle of my dark house saison while playing unreal disc golf at solitude (with a pig roast at the end of the course!), tossing back some cold BMCs while on a four-hour river tubing ride, and nursing a bomber of epic’s brainless on peaches while hitting some birdies at the canyons disc golf course.
  • when it came time to leave (minus one disc and plus two bottles), I had a new-found appreciation for both the geography and beverages utah had to offer.  now I gotta get back there when it’s snowing!

              

              

              

              

 

ventura, dodger stadium

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

last weekend AP and I threw together a last-minute day trip up to ventura.

  • after battling unexpectedly heavy traffic on our way up, we finally broke free and made it over to surf brewery, a roomy brew pub that just celebrated its first anniversary.  we sat down with some take-out from a local deli and ordered up a flight of their current offerings – all were pretty decent, with their vienna lager and anniversary brown being the most memorable.
  • I was also excited to see a well-stocked homebrew store on premises that had a thorough yeast and specialty grain selection.  there’s nothing quite like planning out your next brew day and filling your grain bill while tossing back some local brews.  in fact, I’m surprised more craft breweries don’t offer at least a basic selection of homebrew supplies for sale that they already buy in bulk (e.g., base malt, common hop varieties, etc.).
  • after decompressing at surf, AP assigned a time limit and dropped me off at the wine castle to quickly peruse their inventory.  the store owner and employees were very enthusiastic and helpful, and their cooler selection was killer, with beers like new belgium’s brett beer and sculpin highlighting the lineup.  their bourbon selection was quite impressive to boot.
  • once AP dragged me out of the bodega, we headed to main street.  after battling the crowds and mediocre service at winchesters grill, we walked over to anacapa brewing for some consolation.  after pairing some decent food with some passable house brews, we decided our time was up and hit the road.
  • ventura was fun, but I have a feeling that next time we head up in that direction the superior beer and food scene in santa barbara might merit the extra 45-minute drive.

on another note, I was taken by surprise last weekend when ML went on a beer run at dodger stadium and came back with a couple healthy pours of firestone walker DBA (I was expecting an ice cold budweiser to go with my dodger dog).  after perusing several articles berating the poor beer selection at the stadium, I guess other dodger fans have higher expectations than myself (although I wouldn’t complain if some eagle rock or ladyface taps appear…).

 

 

 

 

 

              

              

thrashlab videos

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

the thrashlab videos I mentioned earlier have been posted, with cameos by yours truly along with some friends from eagle rock and pacific gravity.  the craft beer/homebrewing video paints a pretty concise picture of the current LA beer scene, and the how to homebrew video is a well-filmed oversimplification of me putzing around in the garage.  enjoy!

the craft beer video:

 

the homebrewing video:

imperial stout tasting, beer bargains

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

 

after being sidelined with a nasty head cold last week, I celebrated getting back on my feet by cracking open a bottle of my imperial stout for a tasting.

  • after experiencing some carbonation issues, I hit the bottles with some wine yeast and set them down for a couple of weeks.  the new yeast did the trick, eating up the residual bottling sugar I had added earlier and carbonating up the bottles in a heartbeat.  my latest gravity reading indicates that the beer’s FG didn’t shift (it stayed at 1.02), so hopefully I won’t have to worry about the wine yeast eating some unfermented sugars and overcarbing the bottles (I’m still planning on testing a bottle every week for the next month though).
    • appearance: pitch black, even when held to the light.  1″ tan head fades to 1/4″ after a few minutes but sticks around.  a great looking beer.
    • aroma: intense roastiness with a bit of booze on the back end, slight hint of sweetness
    • taste: creamy mouthfeel with a sharp, dry finish and carbonic bite.  great roasted malt flavors but not a ton of complexity.
    • overall: this beer still isn’t my favorite, but the champagne yeast worked great and really transformed this beer.  it’s amazing how strong carbonation can completely change a beer’s profile.  hopefully the finishing bite created by the wine yeast carbonation will mellow over time.  I’m looking forward to comparing this to the version I finished with brett in the keg.

 

while kicking back with the aforementioned brew, I got to thinking about the frenzy surrounding “elite” beers here on the west coast – beers that are either exceedingly hard to find locally or costly when they do come around.  I know I’m not alone in feeling envious of locals of prominent foreign breweries who can cruise by their neighborhood watering hole at their leisure and pick up some extraordinary beverages for a song.  however, I have also come across consistent beer “bargains” on a weekly basis that (in my opinion) match the quality and complexity of their elusive style counterparts, often for a fraction of the price.

 

 

  • for example, anyone even remotely interested in craft beer has at one time lusted after a bottle of westvleteren 12, a limited-availability belgian quad that is admittedly delicious.  however, instead of shelling out $20+/bottle online or booking a flight to belgium, I recommend heading down to your local and grabbing a bottle or two of st bernardus abt 12, an equally tasty quad that goes for $4.99/bottle around here.  the similarities between the two beers are striking, which makes sense when you consider their shared history.
  • additionally, it seems that everyone and their cousin has a hard-on for anything cantillon these days.  it doesn’t help that the van roy’s creations are nowhere to be found in the state.  I have to admit, they might be my favorite foreign brewery and put out some incredible beers, but instead of chasing down cantillon’s geuze and paying a mint for it, I recommend nabbing some bottles of drie fonteinen’s oude geuze instead.  in fact, although cantillon’s kriek is safely in my top five beer list, I have to admit that I prefer drie fonteinen’s geuze to its cantillon competitor (and I’m not the only one). plus, I can easily get 375s of it (seasonally) for just $9.99, which in my opinion might be the best beer deal out there these days.
  • further, I know of a ton of guys who love orval with a passion.  however, it’s kind of hard to get behind spending $5-6 a bottle for a session beer during a barbecue.  plus, I’m never too sure how long my bottles have been sitting in some hot truck or warehouse on their way over.  as an inexpensive local alternative I recommend checking out green flash’s rayon vert, which is less than half the cost and tastes to me what I would imagine orval would be like from the source.  I reviewed both earlier HERE. 
  • other beers I could generally label as “bargains” when considering quality, price, and accessibility would have to be rodenbach grand cru ($9.99/750mL), old rasputin imperial stout ($8.50/4 12 oz.), and bigfoot barleywine ($14/6 12 oz.).  again, this is only on the west coast, so your results may vary.
  • as much as I like hitting the road to hunt down an elusive regional favorite, it’s reassuring to know that many world-class beers from around the globe are readily accessible from my own back yard.  enjoy!